The Only One Left Summary, Characters and Themes

Riley Sager’s 2023 gothic horror novel “The Only One Left” follows home-health aide Kit McDeere, who takes on the care of Lenora Hope, an elderly woman accused of murdering her family in the past. 

As Kit delves into Lenora’s chilling history, she uncovers dark secrets and questions everything she thought she knew. The book explores themes of murder, family secrets, and the blurred lines between truth and deception.


In 1983, home caregiver Kit McDeere returns to work after a six-month suspension following her mother’s death from an overdose. 

Her new assignment takes her to Hope’s End, a decaying mansion where she is to care for Lenora Hope, a notorious figure accused of murdering her family in 1929. 

Despite the chilling reputation, Kit is determined to look past it and provide excellent care.

Kit’s curiosity grows as she senses Lenora’s dishonesty and uncovers her patient’s hidden passion for writing

Lenora, though physically limited, is slowly typing an account of the night her family was murdered. This revelation leads Kit to investigate further, exchanging information with the groundskeeper and housekeeper, while avoiding the suspicion of the long-term staff.

Strange noises and the discovery of the body of the previous caregiver raise concerns about Kit’s safety. As she delves deeper into the Hope family’s history, she uncovers a shocking secret: Lenora was pregnant at the time of the murders. This discovery becomes the key to unraveling the truth.

Kit eventually finds a former employee who reveals crucial information, leading to a confrontation with the so-called “Mrs. Baker,” who is, in reality, Lenora Hope. Lenora confesses the true events of that fateful night. 

Her sister, Virginia, was the one who attempted to kill their father after her newborn son was taken away. In a tragic turn of events, their mother intervened, leading to a series of deaths.

Virginia, believing her son was dead, tried to hang herself but survived. Lenora then assumed the identity of Miss Baker, leaving Virginia at Hope’s End. 

Virginia eventually returned as “Mrs. Baker,” and the true identities remained hidden for years.

Kit is devastated to learn that Virginia’s lover was her own father, Ricky, and that they were the parents of her half-brother. 

Ricky confesses to killing the previous caregiver and allowing Kit’s mother to overdose. In a dramatic climax, Hope’s End collapses as Ricky attacks Virginia and Lenora. 

Kit saves Virginia, but Ricky chooses to die alongside Lenora, both buried under the rubble.

Kit brings Virginia to her childhood home, where they find temporary happiness. 

However, one day, Virginia disappears, leaving a letter revealing a shocking truth: she has been able to speak and move all along. Virginia invites Kit, her friend Archie, and her granddaughter Jessie to travel the world together. 

They spend the rest of Virginia’s life in an Italian villa, where she eventually dies at the age of 101.

The Only One Left Summary


Kit McDeere

Kit, the novel’s protagonist and narrator, is a dedicated home caregiver haunted by the recent death of her mother, whom she cared for in her final days. 

Kit is deeply empathetic and compassionate, driven by a desire to help others. She is also incredibly resilient, overcoming personal loss and a career setback to resume her work. 

However, Kit’s trusting nature and eagerness to believe in the good in others sometimes cloud her judgment, leading her into dangerous situations. 

Her journey is one of self-discovery, as she uncovers her own family secrets while unraveling the mysteries of Hope’s End.

Lenora Hope (Virginia Hope)

Lenora, the enigmatic patient at the heart of the mystery, is a complex and intriguing character. She is portrayed as physically incapacitated, unable to speak or move, yet her mind remains sharp and her will unyielding. 

Through her slow, deliberate typing, she gradually reveals a dark and shocking past. Lenora’s true identity, Virginia Hope, is a revelation that reframes the entire narrative. 

Virginia is a survivor, having endured unimaginable trauma and loss, and her actions are driven by a fierce desire for justice and a longing to reclaim what was stolen from her.

Mrs. Baker (Lenora Hope)

The woman initially introduced as Mrs. Baker, the housekeeper at Hope’s End, is a master manipulator and a figure of authority. 

She exudes an air of control and maintains a tight grip on the household. However, beneath her composed exterior lies a sinister secret. 

As the novel progresses, it is revealed that Mrs. Baker is actually Lenora Hope, who has assumed a new identity to protect herself and her sister. 

This revelation exposes her true nature as a ruthless and cunning individual willing to go to great lengths to safeguard her past.

Ricky McDeere

Ricky, Kit’s estranged father, is a character shrouded in mystery. 

His absence in Kit’s life and his enigmatic past raise questions about his true motives. 

As the narrative unfolds, it is revealed that Ricky was once involved in a passionate affair with Virginia Hope, resulting in a child. 

His return to Hope’s End and his connection to the tragic events of the past add another layer of complexity to the story. 

Ricky’s actions are driven by a desire to protect his daughter and right the wrongs of his youth, but his past misdeeds and his involvement in the murder of Mary cast a shadow over his intentions.

The supporting characters in “The Only One Left” contribute to the atmospheric and suspenseful nature of the novel. 

Carter, the groundskeeper, and Jessie, the house cleaner, provide valuable insights and assistance to Kit in her quest for the truth. Archie, the chef, serves as a confidant and source of support for Lenora/Virginia. 

Each character plays a role in shaping the narrative and unraveling the tangled web of secrets that lie within the walls of Hope’s End.


The Deceptive Nature of Appearances and Truth

Riley Sager skillfully weaves a narrative that challenges the reader’s perception of reality and truth. 

The characters, especially Lenora Hope and “Mrs. Baker,” present a facade that masks their true identities and intentions. The gothic setting of Hope’s End, with its deteriorating grandeur and haunting atmosphere, further blurs the lines between truth and illusion. 

As Kit delves deeper into the Hope family’s history, she uncovers layers of deception and hidden truths, emphasizing the idea that appearances can be deceiving. 

The novel reminds us that truth is often elusive and multifaceted, requiring careful examination and a willingness to question preconceived notions.

The Weight of the Past and Family Secrets

The novel delves into the profound impact of past events and family secrets on the lives of the characters. The Hope family murders, shrouded in mystery and speculation, cast a long shadow over the present, influencing the lives of those connected to it. 

Lenora and Virginia’s lives are irrevocably shaped by the tragic events of their youth, leading them down a path of deceit and hidden identities. 

Kit, too, grapples with the weight of her family’s past, as she uncovers the truth about her father’s involvement in the Hope family tragedy. 

The novel explores the ways in which past traumas and secrets can haunt individuals and families, shaping their choices and relationships.

The Power Dynamics in Caregiving Relationships

The novel examines the complex power dynamics inherent in caregiving relationships. 

Kit, as a home-health aide, is entrusted with the care of Lenora, who is physically dependent on her. This creates a power imbalance, as Kit has access to Lenora’s most intimate moments and vulnerabilities. 

However, Lenora, despite her physical limitations, wields a different kind of power through her knowledge of the past and her ability to manipulate those around her. 

The novel explores the shifting power dynamics between caregiver and patient, raising questions about trust, autonomy, and the potential for exploitation in such relationships.

Isolation and Loneliness

“The Only One Left” also delves into the themes of isolation and loneliness. 

Lenora Hope, confined to her estate and burdened by her past, lives a solitary existence. Kit, haunted by her mother’s death and struggling with her own grief, also experiences a sense of isolation. 

The gothic setting of Hope’s End, with its remote location and decaying grandeur, amplifies the feeling of isolation. 

The novel explores the ways in which isolation can lead to desperation, manipulation, and a yearning for connection.